Corruption

Supreme Court Refuses to Dismiss Menendez Charges

“The Supreme Court has rejected Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) attempt to throw out the bribery and corruption charges against him, setting the stage for a trial for the New Jersey Democrat this fall,” Politico reports.

“With Monday’s announcement, Menendez can no longer block the proceedings against him from moving forward, a major setback for his efforts to avoid criminal trial.”

Schneiderman Steps Up Scrutiny of Trump

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), “to date one of the most vocal antagonists of President Donald Trump, is preparing to escalate his office’s litigation against the president’s administration,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Schneiderman “has hired one of the top public-corruption prosecutors under former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to focus specifically on issues involving the Trump administration. Howard Master, who prosecuted the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s case against longtime New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver , is expected to work on both continuing and new White House-related matters for the attorney general, as well as on high-level public-corruption cases.”

Massive Influence Peddling Investigated in South Carolina

Charleston Post & Courier: “An investigation into corruption at the Statehouse has taken aim at South Carolina’s command-and-control center – a network of power brokers and lawmakers who, if the allegations are true, milked the system of hundreds of thousands of dollars by skirting the state’s loose ethic laws.”

“The probe… has the potential to challenge the state’s political power structure in ways even deeper than the Lost Trust sting in the 1990s. Though scandalous, the Lost Trust cases targeted lawmakers who could be bought with small amounts of money – lawmakers who held relatively little power in the General Assembly.”

“This one has targeted the state’s top players, most recently, the respected state Sen. John Courson. It involves dollar signs that make Lost Trust look like chump change.”

Why Preet Bharara Had to Go

Mike Allen: “There’s a school of thought that the whole purge was about Preet in the first place: He’s a maverick, his Southern District of New York is powerful, U.S. attorneys have significant independence, and he has jurisdiction over Trump Tower. And he recently launched a personal Twitter feed.”

“If Preet ever flexed his muscles to undermine Trump, he’d be hard to stop. Better to ax him when you can.”

Blagojevich’s Daughter Unloads on Obama

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 20-year-old daughter wrote an angry open letter to former President Barack Obama, saying she lost respect for him after he declined to commute her father’s 14-year federal prison sentence before he left office, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Said Amy Blagojevich:”Everyone seems to be mourning your exit from office. I’m glad you’re gone. I’m not delusional — you’re not a saint. You were a mediocre president with unoriginal ideas.”

She added: “I thought you would finally right this wrong. You didn’t have to pardon him, only commute the sentence. You just had to let him come home. You didn’t. You released others, like Chelsea Manning or FALN terrorists, who actually committed reprehensible crimes, but you failed to release an innocent man.”

Jesse Jackson Jr. Divorcing

Former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, who is seeking a divorce from ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., “said in court filings this week that he has income of at least $10,250 a month while she is out of work and has been borrowing from friends and selling her belongings to stay afloat,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

“Sandi Jackson filed for divorce in Washington, while her husband filed in Cook County. The former Democratic lawmakers pleaded guilty to felonies in 2013 and later completed staggered terms in federal prison.”

Blagojevich Seeks Commutation of His Sentence

Imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is seeking a presidential commutation of his 14-year sentence on a corruption conviction, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“The Chicago Democrat was sentenced in 2011 following his conviction for trying to exchange an appointment to President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash. An appeals court last year struck down five of his 18 convictions and ordered a new sentencing, but a judge this year upheld the 14-year term.”

Trump for Sale

Rick Klein: “Twice in the last week, access to Donald Trump’s children has literally been put up for sale. Both times, those sales were canceled, or at least scaled back, following public scrutiny. But the process that allowed those offerings to go forward at all – an auction for coffee with Ivanka, and a hunting trip with the two eldest Trump sons for big inauguration donors – suggests something in the territory of chaos and/or indifference inside the president-elect’s inaugural planning.”

“These are the sorts of arrangements that should set off bright red flags – particularly after a campaign where the Clintons were accused of all manner of pay-for-play arrangements. The Trump operation has done virtually nothing to specify its safeguards, even while new arrangements testing any planned boundaries pop up. One good way to ensure that individuals and companies don’t try to buy access and influence? Don’t offer it to them.”

Ryan Suggests Trump Is Not Corruptible

Jonathan Chait: “Ryan does say he has ‘confidence’ in Trump to avoid self-enrichment, which is a comical statement. Governments don’t run on trusting leaders to do the right thing when nobody is looking. They’re supposed to have mechanisms of accountability. And what president-elect has provided less grounds for confidence in his lack of pecuniary motive than Donald Trump? This is a man who has engaged in business with organized crime domestically, and with corrupt regimes abroad, who routinely refuses to pay money he owes, who has engaged in flagrant self-dealing, and who habitually lies about absolutely everything. If Ryan has confidence Trump would not use his power for personal gain, what possible leader would give him pause?”

Greg Sargent: The coming Trump kleptocracy

GOP Bets Americans Don’t Care About Trump Conflicts

“Republicans see the same ethically challenged complications lurking in Donald Trump’s business portfolio that Democrats are squawking about. They just think Americans don’t care about these entanglements anymore,” Politico reports.

“Indeed, the GOP is so easily dismissing Democratic threats of investigations and ethicists’ calls for divestment out of a belief that the political landscape has shifted.”

Democrats Plan Assault on Trump’s Ethics

“Democrats are looking to create big headaches for Donald Trump over his unprecedented ethical conflicts,” Politico reports.

“In the 11 days since the Republican’s upset victory, the president-elect’s political opponents have hammered him for giving no sign that he will follow historic norms and really separate himself from his vast financial holdings. They’re baffled that Trump and his family are still promoting their businesses, especially on an official transition website, and they’re questioning how Trump’s son-in-law can legally land a job in the White House.”

Unprecedented Corruption at the Top

Paul Krugman: “Remember all the news reports suggesting, without evidence, that the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising created conflicts of interest? Well, now the man who benefited from all that innuendo is on his way to the White House. And he’s already giving us an object lesson in what real conflicts of interest look like, as authoritarian governments around the world shower favors on his business empire.”

“Of course, Donald Trump could be rejecting these favors and separating himself and his family from his hotels and so on. But he isn’t. In fact, he’s openly using his position to drum up business. And his early appointments suggest that he won’t be the only player using political power to build personal wealth. Self-dealing will be the norm throughout this administration. America has just entered an era of unprecedented corruption at the top.”

Don’t Expect the GOP to Rein In Trump’s Corruption

Greg Sargent: “Donald Trump vowed to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington. But experts on governmental ethics are increasingly worried that Trump’s presidency, and his refusal to place his global business empire in a blind trust, risk producing a conflicts-of-interest cesspool that is far more dense and rancid than anything we’ve seen before.”

“Whether they prove right about this or not, one thing is inarguable: There are specific steps congressional Republicans can take at the outset to make such an outcome less likely — and to force the sort of transparency that could make it easier to evaluate the Trump presidency on ethical terms. If they are so inclined, that is, which they probably won’t be.”